With the original Terminator double widely regarded as of the two of the greatest sci-fi action thrillers ever made, after a horrendous third outing and brief TV fling, when Terminator Salvation was announced the film community gave a more than audible groan.
Battling more negativity than the recent Indiana Jones outing, Terminator Salvation with its release now upon us, and despite director McG’s white lies along the way, the fourth in the franchise is a solid enough addition to James Cameron’s originals.
Waking up in a desolate Los Angeles, Terminator Salvation is set post-judgement day 2018 where a confused Marcus Wright (Worthington) takes what feels like his first steps for 15 years. We first meet Wright in a brief 2003 pre-opening credits sequence when, then a death row inmate, he signs his body over to Cyberdine Systems, developers of the Skynet computer network that has taken over the world with mechanised Terminator robots. Back in 2018, when Wright finds his way into central LA, he’s saved from a patrolling Terminator by a young Kyle Reese (Yelchin), the very same who is sent back in time to then modern day in the first film, before the pair decide to go in search other human Resistance fighters.
Their scheduled destination is to join up with John Connor (Bale), considered to be the saviour of the human race, and central figure in two of the early Terminator films, and after a discover by Connor, their future seems even more in doubt. In an early raid on the Skynet compound, the compound Wright later crawls out of, their plans of a new Terminator in development are exposed, leaving the human Resistance to the take the fight to the machines, and try to hit one of Skynet’s main bases.
After the Resistance reverse engineer a signal to disable the machines, they appear to have a master plan in place, but when Connor hears Kyle Reese has been captured and taken to the base they are planning to hit, Connor take it on himself to strike against Skynet.
Though Terminator Salvation isn’t as compelling as the first two in the series, it certainly doesn’t ruin the memory, especially considering the third. It does though feel like a different film, more straight-up action than you might have expected, without the same intensity as Salvation isn’t centred around a Termintor-Sarah/John Connor chase. Perhaps director McG was forced to cut some of the more powerful images to keep the rating down, but he has still delivered a film with maturity and confidence. It is shot with great style, easily McG’s best work, using some breathtaking long cuts especially an early two-minute helicopter crash and Terminator fight.
With Christian Bale behind John Connor, one thing never in doubt would be the acting class. Coming over a little Batman, and while caped rather than as Bruce Wayne, Bale is typically emphatic en route to surely becoming the all-action hero for the current generation. What’s more surprising is that Sam Worthington steals the show. Whetting your appetite further for Terminator creator James Cameron’s next film Avatar, Worthington boasts effortless charisma and making what could have been a superfluous character Marcus Wright, one of the film’s strongest points.
Old fans will also be able to get a lot out of the inter-linked mythology. Seeing a young Kyle Reese is a joy, portrayed by the assured Anton Yelchin, and as undoubtedly a fifth and sixth in the franchise will undoubtedly emerge, it will be very interesting how the prequel/sequels work in Reese and other Terminators being sent back into the past. The biggest smile though is reserved for a widely reported CGI appearance by Arnold Schwarzenegger, used to perfection when it could have been a laughing stock.
Undoubtedly, Terminator Salvation does still have a fair few limitations. After a whole host of scripting issues that meant Dark Knight scribe Jonathan Nolan was brought on board for a touch up, the film is too long in the middle act and could done with losing a couple of the action sequences in the editing room, and this is after Salvation was already significantly shortened from early cuts.
For a generic action film the character development may pass, but compared with Terminators 1 & 2, none of the leading men go through any real emotional turmoil.
Still, it could have all been a lot worse and with some imaginative new Terminators, a great score some thrilling action set-plays, critics slating the film will be proven harsh as box office results and public opinion soon come in.